The ninth energetic law of leadership is the law of impact. This law tells us that: “You are able to impact others precisely to the same extent you are willing to be impacted,” and “The more impervious you are to the world around you, the more impervious the world is to you.”
This law helps us understand why the capacity for vulnerability is essential to leadership, why coaches and leaders that don’t take on their own work tend to make only a superficial difference, and why perfect listening skills will never substitute for true empathy.
This law shows up most often with leaders that are keen to practice developing the leadership of others, but are unwilling (or more often, unable) to allow that same kind of vulnerability in themselves.
They read books on leadership, watch videos, and sometimes seek out advice, but are rarely willing to put themselves into the same kind of crucible that they would ask of their teams.
The heart of being unwilling to let the world impact you arises from a need to keep ourselves protected. If you’re willing to let the world impact you, it means opening yourself up to heartbreak, disappointment, anger, sadness, grief, and every other aspect of being a human. This isn’t to say that the only kind of impact the world will have on you is painful — it’s simply that we are usually less inclined to protect ourselves from the stuff we like.
Many people learn at a young age that feelings like heartbreak, disappointment, and so on are problematic, and get in the way of the impact they want to create on the planet.
So, to compensate, they shut off their heart, and run the majority of their experience of life through their head. This allows the individual in question to perform whatever job they have in front of them, and minimize the impact on themselves. Rather than being slowed down by the disappointment of failing a goal, they can simply get back on the horse and continue towards whatever needs to happen next.
Logical. Simple. Efficient.
Leaders with this approach become separate from the world. They want more intimacy from their staff, but they are unable to provide that same intimacy back. When someone shows up and provides them feedback that would cause some upset, the leader is unable to allow the feedback in to this extent. It bounces off of their closed heart, and lands in the sterile, barren land of their logical mind. They hear the feedback, they acknowledge the words… and yet the member who has provided this feedback feels they may as well be speaking to a computer.
Everything proceeds in an orderly, efficient, and utterly heartless manner.
It gets worse. Leaders in these positions often try to cultivate cultures of openness — a desire to allow feedback of all kinds to flow up and down the chain, and to provide an open-door policy for communication.
These leaders receive whatever feedback their team provides, acting on all of the listening skills they learned in the most recent leadership book they read, making a point of ensuring they communicate that they have heard everything the team member has to tell them.
And none of it matters.
It doesn’t matter, because underneath a willingness to hear and listen to feedback, the leader is unwilling to let it truly impact them, and consequently, the team member is always going to be left outside of the process.
A leader clinging to the safety of being unimpactable is often able to be there for someone else — but rarely able to be there with them.
In this distinction lies the difference between leadership that gets things done and creates change, and leadership that creates impossible results and fundamentally transforms everyone involved.
Without a willingness to let ourselves be impacted by someone else, we retain a sense of safety — an ability to stay above the fray, removed from the messiness of our humanity. Coaches showing up this way inadvertently create a sense of distance in their clients. They speak the words of empathy, but the client is always left energetically feeling like they’re the only ones that really struggle with this problem.
And in fact, this experience they have is accurate, because the coach or leader is unwilling to afford themselves the kind of grace and humanity that would be required to have this same kind of struggle in their own lives.
The ninth energetic law does not advocate struggling or suffering for the sake of struggle and suffering. It invites you to let go of the safety granted by keeping your heart protected from heartbreak, and instead, to courageously dive into the entirety of the human experience. You don’t need to fabricate or perform suffering and struggle (or any other aspect of the human experience) — it’s already there for you.
You simply need to be willing to feel it.
All of it.